Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blocking Blessings

I'm on deadline for two manuscripts, so blogging will suffer.

It's the end of the year and that makes me (and everyone else) reflective. I'm also right in the middle of Brown Bookshelf research. And having to decide what books deserve a spotlight has required me to strip away my competitive veneer (hard to do) and give each and every author/book their fair shake.

As I ask myself, "Is this book under-recognized?" I'm having to define "under recognized" for each and every book.

There's one contender that's been a National Book Award finalist three times! Surely she can't be classified as under the radar.

Yet, I'd never heard of her. And unless I'm totally alone, it's likely there are actually plenty of kids who may not be exposed to her book, as well - maybe because of her NBA final status. After all, how many books do kids clamor for merely because the book has some sort of national acclaim?

It's an odd position for a writer to be in - to be a critical darling and a commerical question mark. Part of my mission with The Brown Bookshelf is to help - what little I can - to balance that out for the authors we'll select.

And by turning off my competitive voice, I'm better able to think through these things. But until I did, I found myself thinking about "recognition" in terms of my own place in the publishing market. Bad idea.

Because some of the contenders are not so under the radar. And I found cattiness creeping into my thinking as I thought - Well they don't need this recognition.

Since I'm an author who's having to choose some of my peers to uplift, there's a very thin line I'm walking between unselfish support for a deserving author and blocking my own blessings by summarily dismissing someone who, in my opinion, has already gotten their fair share of influencer attention.

So as I go over my list, I'm reminded of hearing the comedian, Tommy Davidson, doing a press junket about seven years ago.

He was saying how, toward the end of In Living Color's run, he often found himself looking around at the success many of his fellow castmates were experiencing. Keenan Ivory Wayans, the show's producer, had ventured off into movie making, Damon Wayans was about to get his own sitcom, Jim Carrey had straight blown up on film and was even getting Oscar love for his more serious portrayals.

Davidson found himself spiraling into bitter jealousy wondering when his time was going to come. He wanted commercial success, not to have to hit the stand-up circuit again. He had the good fortune to be frank about his envy to his grandmother. And she told him that by holding on to that bitterness he was blocking his own blessings. That he'd never experience any real success of his own until he stopped sitting around hating on others as he waited on it.

Like all good grandchildren do, he heeded her advice. Soon after, he got the voice over gig with Disney's The Proud Family. During the interview, he marveled at his grandmother's advice and confessed that, while it had still been a challenge to rejoice in his peers success as his slow-mo'ed its way to him, he no longer looked at things from that angle.

As much radio and TV I listen to, that interview stayed with me as things that touch on a personal note often do.

At the time, I was still a PR flack for a tech company. I was successful, if corporate status and a certain salary are any indication. So I couldn't relate directly to what Davidson was saying. But, 1) his grandmother's advice sounded like something my own would say and 2) it just made sense.

When you dwell on the negative, you're not doing anything to make positive things happen.

Now, as my book competes in the YA market, I'm constantly reminded that to stay the course, I can't block my own blessings.

I'm even more aware of that, as I look to uplift authors for the 28 Days Later Campaign. In a way, for me, The Brown Bookshelf is about good karma.

I know what type of success I'd like to have. And what little of that I can control, I work hard at. But in the end, I can't help but feel that I'm racking up a lot of good karma points for focusing some of my attention and what little free time I have on putting someone else on shine.

I'm not sure how or even if it will ever connect to my own success in the book market. But I do know this - no blessing blocking going on over here.

In case I don't blog anymore this week, Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

I Want The Sky, Baby

"What don't kill me, makes me stronger than be-fo'"

Who's been listening to too much American Gangster, by Jay-Z.

Mm-huh, me!

The title track is nothing short of the shiggity. Not simply because the beat is majorly old school, 70's, Shaft/blaxploitation delicious, but because I'm in a very "I want the sky, baby" state of mind. And Hov utters that during the hook, in his best Bootsy Collins impression.

Alright, if you have no idea who Bootsy Collins is or only know Shaft played by Samuel L. Jackson - please stop reading now because you're way younger than me and I've had a good night of writing and don't have the energy to search for links for a tutorial.

If you were born before the greedy 80's ride with me...

It's the end of the year and time for reflection and a little spiritual housecleaning.

I'm seriously trying to let go of some of my neuroses for '08. The only problem with that is, I want the sky, baby! And when you're shooting for the sky, it's hard to pretend you're fine with anything less. See how one begets the other ending in a vicious cycle?

I'm not big on a whole bunch of New Year's resolutions. So, I'd be insincere to start ticking off all the things I'm going to do differently, knowing the only thing that truly changes on January 1st is the date.

But here's what I can live with. For the new year, as I reach for the sky, I pledge to:

* Always uplift other writers as I promote my own books

* Channel more positive energy into new writing projects

* Shed the practice of frenetic promo (i.e. no implementing promo as if I'm playing catch up, from now on, only sewing promo seeds and watching it grow exposure)

* Chillax more! I've been working hard but not playing hard enough.

* Only drive my editor and agent crazy when I really, really, really, really...really can't help myself (really).

* Sell more books, cause... (say it with me)

I want the sky, baby!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

1st Annual Pauly's

It's award season. That means a lot of movies, books, music and TV shows that I've never watched/read/heard of will be honored in the coming months. I'm a strange duck, that way. I always end up attracted to the stuff off the radar. Or maybe it's just I'm not big on critcally acclaimed fare. ::shrug::

But since everyone and their sister has an awards show, I've decided to host my own - The Pauly's. Ahh yes, very original P.

In the grand tradtion of all award show missions, please check out the winners and exit stage right to your nearest retail location to purchase the mentioned item.

What's that you say? That's not what award shows are for?

Could have fooled me.

So...the Pauly goes to:

Verizon Wireless
Most snort-worthy commercial
I'm talking about the one where the chick gets a pony for the holidays, instead of the latest hot phone. I lose it everytime when the one girl says "Does he bite?" and she snaps, "Yeah!"

The iPhone
Hottest product I can't afford
As soon as I get a real job to afford it and a few months to dedicate to learning to use it...that phone is so mine!

I Know, by Jay-Z ft. Pharrell
Most infectious track
Hov captures the sexy allure of addiction. Sure, he's talking about drugs, but the lyrics are fitting for anything we can't get enough of - a lover, or even a Grande Starbucks coffee frappe, two pump vanilla, double blended with whip. (Hey, you got your addiction and I got mine!)

Double Blended
Best word I've recently added to my personal lexicon
Yes, I've become one of those obnoxious peole who knows exactly how to order my Starbucks coffee, the way I want it. See above for ordering accuracy.

Trend I'm late to but glad I've arrived
Better late than never. Love these things! Only downside - they make me want to dress down everyday. On the flip side, jeans and sweats are an upgrade from wearing pajamas all day.

Starbursts Berries n' Creme
Commerical I can recite line for line
Berries?! Berries and what else?! Aww-hah...Berries n' creme, berries n' creme, I'm a little lad who loves berries and creame. BERRIES N' CREME, BERRIES N' CREME. I'M A LITTLE LAD WHO LOVES BERRIES N' CREMMMMMME-MAH!

Thank you, thank you!

"Mazoltov, it's a celebration, bitches!"
Most deliciously inappropriate lyric I can't resist singing
This line in Roc Boys makes me sing with gusto. You know, sometimes you just gotta go blue.

Kiss, Kiss, by Chris Brown ft. T-Pain
Song that makes me wish I were 16 again
Let's get one thing clear: the only time it's appropriate for a thirty-something year old woman to have a crush on an eighteen year-old is when it's a MUSICAL crush. End lesson!

The Hills
Sign that the apocalypse may not be as bad as we think
Yes, it's terribly melodramatic. No, I never ate out as much as these girls in my 20's. And, damn, Brody Jenner is hot. Look, I like what I like. Deal!

The Prestige
Movie that had me simultaneously frustrated and enthralled
Man, that Christian Bale is so hot, right now (nod to Zoolander). This movie had my mind all messed up. I love magic!

Murphy & Goode Merlot
Elixir of the Gods
You know you're grown when alcohol consumption is something done primarily to complement a good meal or reward a trying day. Lightly smoky without a hint of bitterness, this wine is simply the shit. But it's only for the grown folk.

Law & Order: CI
Beneficiary of the writer's strike
I was hot when it moved to Thursday and on USA to boot. I miss every other ep simply because I keep forgetting it's changed days and channels! But it's moving back to NBC on Wednesday because NBC doesn't have enough programming to fill out its schedule. Woo-hoo! Writer's rock!

Why Did I Get Married?
My First Tyler Perry opening
Many firsts here - first Tyler Perry movie I saw in theatres AND on opening night, no less. I'm no longer a Tyler Perry virgin. Okay,, we've got to get married.

Song that made me love it
I started off only liking the last two minutes. Then I started feening for the whole thing. Damn you, Justin, that's like nine minutes of my life I lose everytime I listen to this track!

And there you go - my Pop culture best and brightest - shorter than the Emmy's, less entertaining than the Grammy's, more fun than the Golden Globes and more publicized than the ALA's.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Finders Keepers My Arse!

Law schmaw!

What do you think about this story?

A contractor found $182,000 in the wall of his client (who also happens to be a friend) and now they're feuding over who gets to keep the duckets.

Let me think...who gets the money?

Who gets the money?

Oh, house, my money!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ten Questions That Rock - Laurie Stolarz' Project 17

So here it is about ten days shy of winter and already MD is bracing for its second snow. Second!
They're even using the "B" word for this next one. That's right, BLIZZARD. I haven't seen a blizzard since the early 90's. So I'm stocked up on my TP and milk and ready for anything.

Give me your best, Momma Nature.

Meanwhile, Laurie Stolarz is hanging out in the Clique Lounge with me. Laurie's YA thriller Project 17 is a perfect snowstorm read.

Laurie, I hope you brought hot chocolate. That and a good book are the only things you need to get you through a Nor'easter.

Here we go...

If you could enter your MC into a MTV-style Celebrity Deathmatch, what protagonist would you challenge and why?

LS: I think Derik LaPointe would do great on Fear Factor.

Shoes say a lot about a person, what type of shoe are you?

LS: I’ll take the comfy, cushy Uggs, thank you. I also like designer heels, but I don’t pay designer prices.

TCL Says: Just bought myself a pair of Uggs, few months ago. God, but they are comfortable!!

What type of writer are you: plot-driven or character-driven?

LS: Both. I start with plot because that helps me see a through-line. It keeps me focused, thinking about the story arc, the rising & falling tension, and the climax. It also helps me consider motivation and smaller plot-strands – and how each plot strand helps support the overall through-line. As I write my novel, I get to know my main character. I’ll then go through and rewrite intensively for character.

Word association time. What do you think when I say:

Chick-lit: a square, hard-shelled piece of gum.

Best seller: The independent bookstore in the next town over – that’s what it’s called.

Best Band Ever: It depends on what my mood is. I honestly like all types of music and I can’t narrow it down to one single band or artist. There are way too many good ones – way too many who continue to reinvent themselves in interesting and innovative ways.

Most rockin’ author: Rockin’ author? I don’t know, does Steven Tyler write?

Name the Top 3 books on your TBR List:

Soul to Soul by Gary Zukav
Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
Luxe by Anna Godbersen

If you had anything to do with it, what would the next hot lit trend be?

LS: Spirituality. Teens questioning the meaning of life and their place in it.

What celeb would you love to see play your MC on the big or small screen and why?

LS: I can totally picture Chad Michael Murray playing Derik LaPointe.

Whether it’s because you admire their work or adore them, who’s your author crush?

LS: No author crushes. Actors, however, I have many. John Cusack tops that list.

What TV show do you watch that you’re ashamed to admit liking?

LS: I have no shame. I love reality TV – the cheesier the better. So, yes, that means I was totally get glued to things like The Surreal Life, Rock of Love, and My Fair Brady.

SSP: Tell the cliquesters why your book should be in their TBR list.

LS: It’s guaranteed to terrify. There are also bits of humor and romance thrown in for good measure.

Guaranteed to terrify, the three words known to push a self-admitted Stephen King junkie into a purchase. You know the drill...say it with me, "cop that joint."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

All in the Family

My girl, Barb, is doing a cool holiday blog tour:

The 12 Days starts today. So, check themout. I love some of the prizes, so guess who will definitely be trying to get her some chica lit and vicky's secrets goodies?

::waving:: Me!

Why yes, I am taking this whole re-posting other people's blogs to the limit. Geez, I'm still giving ya' quality stuff, quit yer whining.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Why Blog?

When you can just re-post a much more informative article from someone else's?

Editorial Ass ::snort, snort, chuckle:: helps the rest of us poor, writing slobs figure out that whole sell-in/sell-through thing.

I never considered myself a dumb person until I had to figure out publishing jargon. To this day, I still say "buy-in" when I'm actually referring to sell-in.

As informative as this article is, it also means very little considering - the way royalty statements come out (twice a year)- you're left reconciling that whole sell-through thing on one book for years. All you can do is pray the friggin' reserve number goes down.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Got Your Copy, Yet?

Don't Get It Twisted has been in stores for...about ten days, now.

Did you get your copy, yet?


Mais, oui, pourquoi?

That's "But, yes, why?" in French. An odd way to phrase a question, but me likey anyway.

Alright, here it is, the top 10 reasons you should get your copy, now.

See, look what you've made me do - I've resorted to a list!

10. Because I'm asking nicely. I was always taught that if you asked nicely, people usually complied. Please, don't shatter the faith I have in all those good manners, my parents taught me.

9. Rumor has it, the first week in a book's life is pretty important. Now, technically this is way more important to me than it is to you. But alas, I must deal with the business side of writing now and then and if, for some reason, the first week is crucial (like opening day is for a movie) then by all means, if you were gonna buy it anyway...why not now?

8. It's gotten good buzz by actual teen readers. Editorial reviews are ego-swelling (unless they're bad) but good reviews by the intended reader are sweeter than candy.

7. A reader + Time on their hands = Time to buy a new book. Formulas never lie!

6. I took the time to make a cool trailer for it. Now come on, if you're not going to run to the store after seeing this, it's a sad commentary on the state of advertising's ability to persuade. That is so sarcasm, if you couldn't tell! But the trailer is cool. The way the graphic moves is sort of hypnotizing.

5. Remember, this is a series. You've got to jump on board now or risk being left out of the locker talk. Perish the thought.

4. Our favorite freshman, Drama Queen, Mina is about to find herself at the point of a love triangle. Mmmm...drama.

3. JZ gets a little more face time in this one. That's right, something for the fellas!

2. I had a lot of fun writing this one and that usually translates into the readers enjoying reading it. I'm just saying...can that be a coincidence?

1. It's good!

Try it. You'll like it.

Available at bookstores everywhere including:

Barnes & Noble



*Remember, if your indie doesn't have it, request it. It's good to let the local stores know - they may not always be aware their customers have an interest in a certain book/series.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Big Win Friday!

I know you thought I forgot all about announcing the winners of the Teens Read Too Don't Get It Twisted Girl Power Hidden Contest.

Whew! How's that for a contest name?!

But I didn't. I didn't forget. I...okay, I didn't forget but it sort of fell off my radar. No fault of Jen's - she sent me the names. But blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That's me not bothering to list the litany of things that came up between her giving me the names on December 1st and me just NOW posting them.

Okay, enough from me!!!

I asked you guys to send me your Girl Power stories, because my characters may sometimes be flaky, every now and then materialistic but always, the DRB Clique chicks are about girl power and doing what's right (even Jessica, I think).

I received stories about doing the unpopular thing at the risk of ridicule and forgiveness and turning the other cheek. Great entries!

So, you want to know who won, right?

The winners of a copy of Don't Get It Twisted are:

Tiffany L.

Lauren P.

Audrey B.

And the grand prize winner of a copy of the book AND a designer wristlet is...

Charlotte S. for her girl power story about standing up to a close family friend for their sexist and racist remarks. Do your thing, girl!

Ladies, your books will be on their way, soon.

Congratulations and thanks for entering my contest!

Happy Reading.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I Hate Being Wrong...

But I've been known to be...once. ::wink, wink::

If you've read my blog more than once, you've likely read my thoughts on book promotion. The issue of how much an author should promote is an age-old debate among writers, 1) because we're lonely and debate keeps us interacting with one another and 2) because the average writer would like their book to succeed and thus knowing how much promo to put into it is a natural curiosity.

Ally Carter, author of the Gallagher Girl series, has - for some time now - been vocal about authors putting a more realistic bent on promotional activities - and doing only the level of promo they're comfortable. It's a point she and I firmly agree.

She and I have been in several loops where the discussion arose. So, I know how weary she is of answering it because so many writers seem to hear what she says but not listen.

I'm guilty of it as well. Because, where our opinions get a bit fragmented is within the bolded part of her statement, from her August 22 blog post:

My opinion about MySpace and those sites is pretty much my opinion on ALL promotional activities: do what you enjoy for as much time as you enjoy it and then get back to work. I think a lot of authors (and I was one of them for a while) put sooooo much pressure on themselves to be promotion machines. But that's not the job. The job is to write the best possible books we can write--if we do that, then I'm a firm believer that eventually, the rest will take care of itself.

I don't disagree in principal. Well, I don't disagree at all. Writing the best book we can is our job - 100%.

It's just that there are a lot of really good books out there that don't become best sellers or even sell well. Learning what I've learned, in the last year, and hearing some horror stories from authors who aren't me - I practically choke on the thought that once I turn in a book I'd rely mostly on its quality to see it through.

However, after a year of promoting off and on for my books, I've got to say I now see more clearly why Ally's stance on this is so firm. And when I read between the lines of her words, what I take from it is - it's not that promotion isn't essential, it's just there's no accounting for how successful any of it will be, how many book sales you can actually attribute to it. However, you can control how good your book is.

I have no idea what has generated the bulk of my book sales?

- The ad in Girls Life, in March

- Face out love in the bookstores

- My website

- My Myspace

- Word-of-mouth

- Library Visits

- Blogging

- Cyber tours

- Author collaboratives

- Articles in various media outlets

- Local television shows

::Shrug:: No idea. And I've done 'em all. But I do know that I've finally (finally) come to terms with the fact that book sales are so out of my hands and that time is better spent writing than promoting - which eats up a tremendous amount of energy, time and sometimes money.

So, in that regards, Ally is right and I am...::cough, cough:: wr...not right.

It doesn't mean I'll no longer promote. And, truth be told, the promotion I've done to date is within both reason and my comfort zone. I've never gone beyond my budget or available time to promote.

However, promotion has eaten away at time I could have been writing, more than I care to admit. I have over-fretted over the details of various promo activities - energy wasted. And, for some activities, it's taken literally hours to lay the ground work. It's stressful, for sure.

I've done each activity, more or less, anxiously hoping it would make some sort of tangible difference. And I can't say that any have. Intangible impact - definitely. Sales? Couldn't tell you.
So, admitting I was...not right, is therapeutic. I'm looking at promo differently than I did nine months ago.

And that means, when I go on my next promo streak I'll leave the angst out of the loop. It's the anxiety of promotion that sucks up the most energy, not the actual promo itself. If I'm going to angst over anything it's getting the book, just right.

Touche Ally. Touche.

Ten-Questions-That-Rock GCC Style: Chicks With Sticks

Have you wondered why no Ten Questions That Rock, lately? Don't ask. Poor Elizabeth was too nice to cyber smack me and point out I hadn't profiled her latest in the Chicks with Sticks series. Am I the only person who thinks that's a hella cool name for a series? And it's not what you think it is, either (naughty, naughty).

Well, better late than never...I present, Elizabeth Lenhard!

What protag would you want on your Celeb Deathmatch tag team and why?

EL: You'd think I'd want to be on a deathmatch tag team with Tay, because she's definitely the badass of the four Chicks with Sticks--a tattooed skateboarder that nobody messes with. But actually, I'd pick the flighty flower girl, Bella. She'd win with her charm--and maybe an innocent accident involving a knitting needle.

Shoes say a lot about a person, what type of shoe are you?

EL: I'm a chunky Mary Jane -- cute but comfy.

What type of writer are you: plot-driven or character-driven?

EL: I've worked very hard to become a plot-driven writer. Because you can't tell a story if there's no story to tell.

Word association time. What do you think when I say:
Chick-lit-- indulgence
Best seller -- My dream!
Best Band Ever -- Ever?!? The Beatles, I guess!
Most rockin’ author -- at the moment--Ellen Potter. I just tore through her Olivia Kidney trilogy.

Name the Top 3 books on your To Be Read (TBR) List

EL: The Myth of the Simple Machines, a book of poems by my friend Laurel Snyder
The Stephanie Meyer books (I want to know what all the hype is about!)
The Book Thief

TCL Says: Same here on the Meyer books. I've been meaning to pick up one.

If you had anything to do with it, what would the next hot lit trend be?

EL: Books about knitters, of course! It'd be nice to be ahead of the game. ;-)

What celeb would you love to see play your MC on the big or small screen and why?

EL: Funny, I've never thought about that! My main character is Scottie, an angsty everygirl with an inside edge to her. Maybe Evan Rachel Wood. I like the lightness and darkness of her.

Whether it’s because you admire their work or adore them, who’s your author crush?

EL: I don't know if it's a crush, but I do think if we lived in the same city, I'd be friends with Sarah Dessen. We have a lot in common -- we're the same age, both have baby girls, live in the South, and, obviously, we both write YA lit (though only one of us is a huge bestseller, thus far!) She's so talented, yet so humble. And her blog is very funny -- full of personal foibles.

What TV show do you watch that you’re ashamed to admit liking?

EL: America's Next Top Model. My husband is mortified every time I turn it on and I sort of am, too. But I can't seem to stop watching! The drama! The silliness! The pretty pictures. The catfights! It's fabulous.

TCL Says: Look me up, we can IM during episodes.

SSP: Tell the cliquesters why your book should be on their TBR list.

EL: The Chicks have a really special, uncommon friendship, and when you read my books, you feel like you're part of that friendship. There's no backstabbing, no mean girls. It's a feel-good book.

Which isn't to say the Chicks are all sweetness and light and earnestness. (Boring!) No, there's plenty of angst and drama, not to mention goofy adventures, witty repartee and even some broad comedy.

And then there's that crafty angle (with knitting patterns and projects at the back of the book, no less). If you're a knitter, these characters are going to feel like soul sisters. And if you're not, believe me, your fingers will be itching for some yarn and sticks by the time you get to the epilogue.

Well, P couldn't knit her way out of a paperbag. But that's no reason not to check out this cool series. Cop it for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Holiday Ain't A Holiday...

Until we break out the Boyz II Men, Christmas Intepretations CD.

No Burl Ives here, our household decorates the tree to Boyz II Men. We've had this CD for 13 years. So I was in an all out panic when we couldn't find it.

There was going to be no tree dressing until we had our Boyz.

We looked everywhere. The CD was nowhere to be found. iTunes to the rescue.

Christmas Interpretations is exactly as promised, an interpretation of holiday music. There are no holiday classics here. Boyz II Men blesses the listener with melodic songs about loneliness, love and poverty.

Yeah, I know it doesn't sound very cheerful. But trust me, it's an awesome CD.

There's their beautiful accapella cover of Silent Night, the slow-groovy collabo, Let It Snow, with Brian McKnight and the sexy, Cold December Nights.

Not to mention, Wanya, the best riffer in the business,riffs on the word "day" for two minutes (I clocked it) in Who Would Have Thought.

But what's best about the CD for me, is it's a tradition in our household. So much so, that Princess A was singing along with one of the songs. She turned to me and said, "Okay, I know we've had this thing a really long time...because even I know the words."

Yay! Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


So, you like reading my rantings, insight and ponderings - how about chatting in real-time?

Check me out tonight at Enchanting Reviews at 9:30 EST

We'll talk YA fiction, my books and pop culture. And there's a contest. You can win a designer wristlet.

And tomorrow, at the
Sankofa Book Fair
at both 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.

This chat's a little bit more "serious" we'll talk about the state of African American literature where young readers are involved. Chatters are eligible for book giveaways.

Whether you prefer a little girl chatter or more serious lit talk, choose a chat, any chat!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Statistically Speaking

PR is a trial and error type of field.

What other industry do you know where you can charge a client, yet be frank with them that there are no guarantees their money will yield results?

Few. But, that's also why PR is the step child of Advertising and why you can't charge nearly as much as a PR company as you could if you were an Ad company.

It's hit or miss, at best. And even the best miss, because it's the nature of the beast.

Still, as an author, I'm my worst nightmare as a client. I scrutinize every promo activity to decide if it's worth my time and money as if I were dissecting a worm in Freshman Biology. I'm the type of client I used to grit my teeth at when I was working at a PR agency.

I spend a good deal of time blogging, reading other people's blogs, sometimes commenting (most times, not), blabbing and sharing in writer's forums etc... I do this, primarily, because writing is lonely and the Internet has fast become my version of water cooler talk.

While writers book talk one another often, if indeed I purchased the book of every author I befriended I'd be broke with a capital B. I'm sure other writers feel the same. Still, late this summer, I started to wonder how much of my viral networking was resulting in traction. If not book sales ('cause I have no way of knowing) at least traffic to my site.

Here's what I found:

Googleosity, it Works
A great deal of my hits are from Google searches (75%). And get this, many are actually googling me! Ha, who would have thought? But there are equally as many who are googling other things and end up being pushed to my website because of some key word.

For example, The Book of Luke by Jennifer O' Connell gets googled a lot from foreign countries and they end up on my blog because I have a Ten Questions That Rock on the book. No idea why so many from foreign countries, but I've had visitors from Chile, France, Japan and many other places searching for her book.

Next comes Yahoo with 14%. The rest of the search engine hits are so minimal as to not count.

Waving The Banner
For this second book, I thought I'd try banner ads. So I'm running banner ads on two websites, right now. One just started - so I've gotten minimal traffic. But the other went live November 1st and I've had decent, not great, but a decent amount of traffic from there.

I have no idea what a good click through rate is on a banner ad. But if I took a guesstimate, I'd say in the last month I've had about 20 click throughs from their site to mine. So that's less than one a day.

The question remains, will the click through rate be good enough for me to invest in another banner ad from either? I'll wait out the entire run time and see.

Cyber Tours, Marketing Collabos & Jabber Jawing Online

Okay, here's where I've often wondered - just how much of me running my mouth in the name of cyber networking and collaborating with other authors actually works.

Unfortunately, I've had very little traffic from my involvement with Class of 2K7. However, the cyber stats do not reflect just how much word-of-mouth 2K7 received. Man, at BEA, we were practically celebs. Seems like every other author or librarian we ran into had at least heard of us. So, maybe we were just more popular with the bricks and mortar set.

The Brown Bookshelf, on the other hand, has drawn some good traffic in the thirty days since it launched. The irony being, I'm not even promoting myself with this intiative. Hey...I may be on to something.

I haven't had a significant amount of traffic from my Girlfriend Cyber Circuit touring - but admittedly, I wasn't checking or scrutinizing my stats as thoroughly when I did my tour, as I've done lately. So I'll have to wait until I do my next round, to truly analyze the impact. Since it's specifically a cyber tour, I'm now very interested in the number of click throughs to my site from the Girlfriends blog posts.

Similiarly uncalculated, is whether my chattiness in areas like Verla's Blue Board yields traffic. This is a support group/water cooler type forum for me. I'm not there to promote - well, not primarily. So I've never much paid attention to those who have clicked through from Verla's. I'll start paying more attention, now, though - out of curiosity more than anything else.

Blogging's Killing My Novel
Okay, not literally. But my stats reveal that my website's most popular pages are blog pages. Holy mixed feelings, Batman!

I love that people are reading the blog, but it would be nice to see the About The Book page be the top. "Books" is the 3rd most popular page, but remains a solid 100 hits behind the blog.

I've come to the conclusion that without a weapon or copious amounts of chocolate, I can't force people to the pages I'd like them to visit. But it's fun to play armchair quarterback to myself. Based on these stats, I will consider cutting down on some of my forum visits. Except, they're just so darn addictive!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday Drive-by Signings

Since Don't Get It Twisted came out this week, I thought I'd stalk...errr, check and see if it were in my local stores. So I did a few drive-by signings today, offering to sign stock for any store that had them in.

The good news is, both Barnes & Noble, in Annapolis and Bowie had it and the Annapolis Borders had it.

What was really cool, upon introducing myself, the rep at Borders said the seven words every author loves to hear: "We can't keep them on the shelves."

Apparently they go quickly. And they're not even face out (like they are at B&N). Sweet!

The Borders Customer rep (who may or may not have been the Manager) was very knowledgeable of my book, too. She remembered the name of So Not The Drama with no prompting and remembered that it had been stocked downstairs where they keep Af-Am fiction. Don't Get It Twisted, happily, is stocked with its YA brethren.

Oh, and at B&N Bowie, there was a teen book-shopping with her mom. So I introduced myself and told her to check out the book to see if it might tickle her fancy.

The bad news is, Karibu is still not carrying my book in the stores. Seems you can order them online, but I've never seen my book on shelves.

They're my local indie. They're (I believe) the largest African-American owned independent book chain. I've supported them as both a customer and an author via the Black Writer's Guild. My book is made for their target customer (African American, not young adult). So why aren't my book and their store a match made in book heaven?

It's a rhetorical question. I've long gotten over trying to solve this puzzle. There's way more about the book business that I don't know than I do - I'm learning to scrutinize each issue to determine which are actually worth solving. And some may not have an easy answer, anyway.

I plan to do a couple of drive-by signings a week - reaching beyond my usual haunts. I'm excited to touch more indies. There are no Booksense indies where I live. So looks like I'll be gassing up the ol' SUV (and that's a lot of gas) and heading North.

Some people Christmas shop in December, I do drive-bys...signings, that is.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Oh, Go Pop Yourself

Hi, I'm Paula and I'm an author of popular fiction.

Now here's your line: "Hi Paula."

I've started this support group, Pop Authors Anonymous, also known as "Paa!" because I'm no longer able to manage my anger problem at being considered a second-class liteary citizen among the literati, alone.

I hope to see some of my peers at future meetings. Membership is open, free of charge and in lieu of face-to-face meetings, simply blog your frustration and we'll come running, reminding you to tell all those who devalue your contemporary, fun, "frivilous" novel with a simple, "Oh, go Pop yourself!"

Ahh...that feels good.

Meanwhile, I'll get this first meeting started with my testimonial.

Make no mistake, I am not ashamed of being a popular fiction author. I love what I write, because I remember how much it meant to me to escape the dreaded required reading now and then. So I consider it my gift to the avid readers of the world who don't always want to be draped in the latest "great American novel."

But it's been an especially trying day for an author of bubble-gum flavored books.

First, my daughter's BFF relayed an exchange between she and her teacher. The conversation went something like this:

BFF: Miss P, my teacher said I can't do my book report on your book.

ME: No surprise. Many teachers like book reports to be on more literary novels.

BFF: Yeah. She said she doesn't like "those" kind of books.

Now see...I was okay right up until the "those" kind of books. That's what got my motor running. Princess A's teacher said the same thing earlier this year. Well, actually what she said was that she didn't like "Clique novel and Gossip Girl type books."

Umm, excuse me, my books actually are NOT like those (hell, I wish they were. The books are friggin' best sellers). But I refuse to try and convince anyone of that. Read the book for yourself - like it or don't. But spare the turning up of your nose until you're sure what you're snubbing. In other words, Go Pop yourself!

Okay, then I had an interesting request for help. A group is creating a library and they wanted some recommended reading for the older teens.

I was honored to be asked. But within the request I got the impression that one of the reasons they were stumped on books for the older kids was because among the criteria for eligible books was that they faciliate learning.

Umm...well, isn't learning facilitated in the classroom? Isn't it what kids do six hours a day in school? What on earth is wrong with them curling up with a book that allows them to escape their worries and real world for awhile?

And uh...isn't there something to learn from just about anything we read? Not literally, but being exposed to the struggles - not matter how deep - of a main character usually makes you think.

And, honestly, most teens read Gossip Girl and the like and know it's exxagerated. Geez, give today's teens some credit!

Gotta give it to GG, never has a series been so bashed and celebrated, at the same time.

But the icing on the cake was - I came across some information on one of the big awards. I was perusing past nominees of their lit categories. I was shocked that for one year, of the books nominated for their YA category, only ONE of the books was actually a YA. ONE!

And that book ended up winning. Thank God!

The rest were non-fiction accounts. It was, to me, an almost subliminal message that these were the type of books they wanted teens to read. It had little to do with what teens may actually want to read!

Look, we get it. Popular fiction authors have no delusions that we're changing the world with our stories, but could we get a little 'spect here?

Normally, I'm better able to blow off this sort of "discrimination." I chose to write what I write and knew how some viewed it when I came into this game. But it just seemed as if there were reminders all around me today of how some leaders, the same who say that literacy is important to them, are ignoring the fact that a true love of reading takes finding books that interest you.

Required reading in school is just that - REQUIRED. Some students may enjoy it, but a majority are reading it because you told them to.

I'd like to see more influencers embrace popular fiction for young readers. At least reserve negative opinion on a case-by-case basis.

I believe the best way to guarantee we raise a nation of non or reluctant readers is to continue to devalue the books they turn to for pleasure.

Meanwhile, power to the pop cultists. And everyone else...(say it with me) Go Pop yourself!

Meeting Adjourned!